On 21 May 2014, as part of its State aid modernisation programme, the European Commission adopted a revised State aid General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER).
The old GBER, which came into force in 2008, allowed aid measures across areas as diverse as research and development, environmental aid and SME investment aid to be implemented without prior notification to the Commission. This wide coverage, coupled with the fact that both aid schemes and (most) ad hoc aid awards were eligible for coverage, meant that the GBER had a significant impact on the way in which State aid was assessed and awarded.
Building on this, the Commission has now adopted a revised GBER, which has the following three main features.
First, the revised GBER adopts an even wider set of aid measures than its predecessor. 43 aid measures, organised into 13 chapters, are now available for use. These cover most of the previous exempt aid categories, as well as new areas such as investment aid for research infrastructures, aid for innovation clusters, regional urban development aid and aid for sport infrastructures. The extension of the scope of the GBER is welcome as it will allow grant giving bodies greater flexibility and increase legal certainty for grant recipients.
Second, both the old and the revised GBER operate on the basis of individual notification thresholds. Aid can only be awarded under the GBER up to the threshold amount, with higher amounts being notified to the Commission for individual exemption. Under the revised GBER, a number of these thresholds have been raised substantially (for example, a 100% increase in the threshold for many research and development projects). This will allow larger projects to receive legal State aid without the need to apply for an individual exemption.
Third, to counterbalance these more generous exemption measures, the revised GBER contains more stringent monitoring and reporting provisions. As well as the existing obligations to assess the incentive effect of the aid measure and to notify aid to the Commission within 20 days of the measure entering into force, the Commission will evaluate large aid schemes to ensure that they are State aid compliant. It is also expected that it will monitor awarded aid closely.
The revised GBER will enter into force on 1 July 2014.
The full text can be viewed at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/legislation/gber_regulation_en.pdf